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“Breaking the Glass Ceiling”: Ed Trust’s New Report on the Achievement Gap

This month, The Education Trust released a forward-thinking report, “Breaking the Glass Ceiling of Achievement for Low-Income Students and Students of Color,” which tells the story of the achievement gap from a new angle. Most efforts to date have focused the achievement gap between our low-performing students, but The Education Trust’s report points out that achievement gaps also exist between our high-performing students. The Education Trust points out that achieving full equality in America means that we need to make sure that our low-income students and students of color are also represented amongst our high-achieving students. In other words, it’s not enough to raise their performance to proficient; we need to raise the bar even higher.

Using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), The Education Trust demonstrates this trend by studying the progress that subgroups make in narrowing their gaps over time. For example, if Hispanic students were to narrow their gaps more than White students over an increment of time, then Hispanic students would be deemed to have shown more improvement than their White peers. The interesting twist in this study by The Education Trust, however, is that it distinguishes between gaps at the “low-end” and gaps at the “high-end” of achievement by comparing gaps amongst sub-groups at the Below Basic and Advanced levels, independently.Read More »

Connecticut’s Big 6: “Continue Funding for the Commissioner’s Network Schools”

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“This program helps turn around our lowest performing schools.”

 On April 19th, 2013, the Appropriations Committee cut roughly $37 million in necessary funding for education reforms from Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget. This includes $10 million in cuts over the next two years to the Commissioner’s Network.

The Commissioner’s Network was created to turn around our state’s lowest performing schools and provide the support necessary to improve student achievement.

The governor’s proposal of $14.1 million over the biennium was intended to fund the following initiatives within the Commissioner’s Network:

  • Increased support for principals and teachers
  • 300 hours of extended learning time to schools over the biennium
  • Up to five lead partners to manage the schools
  • Professional development for coaching on data use
  • Community partnerships to provide wraparound services

Currently, four schools are participating in the Commissioner’s Network,[1] and six more schools were invited to develop plans this year:

Participating Schools in the Commissioner’s Network

Currently Participating Schools

Curiale School, Bridgeport

Milner School, Hartford

High School in the Community, New Haven

Stanton School, Norwich

Schools Invited to Develop Plans

Crosby High School, Waterbury

Richard C. Briggs High School, Norwalk

DiLoreto Magnet School, New Britain

Walsh Elementary School, Waterbury

P.L. Dunbar School, Bridgeport

Windham Middle School, Windham 

Under the Governor’s proposal, this initiative would expand to include up to 21 schools by the end of the biennium. However, the Appropriations Committee budget cuts funding for the Commissioner’s Network to only $3.9 million over the biennium, which will reduce the number of schools that can be included in the program from 21 to 12.[2]

We urge state legislators to restore funding for this key program designed to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools.

A better education for thousands of students is at stake.



[1] Governor Malloy’s press release of Feb. 1, 2013, retrieved from: http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/cwp/view.asp?A=4010&Q=518188

[2] OFA Summary of 4.19 Appropriations budget, pg. 331, retrieved from: http://www.cga.ct.gov/ofa/Documents/year/APPJF/2014APPJF-20130419_Appropriations%20Committee%20Budget%20FY%2014%20-%20FY%2015.pdf

Continuing Support for Common Core Implementation

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In April, the Appropriations Committee didn’t just propose to cut new funding for Common Core State Standards; they completely eliminated it.

In 2010, Connecticut became one of the now 46 states that are adopting the Common Core State Standards. Along with standardizing expectations, CCSS encourages depth in learning and mastery of rigorous subject matter while making sure that our students become competent and competitive workers. In essence, CCSS changes the focus of classroom learning from quantity to quality. (Read more about CCSS here.)

Governor Malloy’s original budget proposal included $16.6 million over the biennium to support local implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This money is intended to train teachers and leaders to adopt the new standards in schools, develop aligned assessment tools, and create online reference materials for educators.

The Appropriations Committee’s Budget would be devastating to the progress made towards ensuring a quality education for all students.  Without any initial funding for CCSS implementation, educators will not have the support they need to make these vital changes. “The majority of teachers support the Common Core Standards but don’t feel prepared to teach them”, says CCER Executive Director, Rae Ann Knopf. “We need to make sure that teachers are confident in their abilities by providing focused professional development and training if we want to see positive changes in Connecticut Schools.”

We must follow through on our commitments in order to improve.

We must support Connecticut teachers in implementing higher standards and expectations for every student.

We are asking much of Connecticut’s educators, and, in return, CCER is urging legislators to restore funding for Common Core implementation. It is time that we support our teachers and administrators to ensure that ALL students have access to an effective and fulfilling education.

Connecticut’s Big 6: “Protect Progress on Statewide Educator Evaluation System”

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“We must move forward with the statewide educator evaluation system, which supports and develops teachers and principals, and holds educators accountable for their performance.”

The education reform bill passed by the state legislature with overwhelming support last year, and signed into law by the Governor, raises standards for educators by implementing a teacher and principal evaluation and support program.

The Appropriations Committee budget cuts put this essential program at risk.

We urge legislators to restore the $10 million for Talent Development, proposed by Governor Malloy’s budget.

This program is a significant improvement over existing evaluation programs in its potential to provide essential feedback and support to high-performing teachers and principals, make certain that teachers in need of improvement receive the help they need, and allow for swift dismissal of those who consistently fail to improve. Program pilots are underway currently in 10 sites. Upon review of these efforts, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved this program for statewide implementation. The remaining districts have developed plans for evaluation systems similarly informed by effectiveness. The SBE will review these plans for approval this month.

Why is this so important? Research is clear on the long-term positive impacts of effective teachers for kids, as well as theRead More »

Learning from the U.S. Department of Education’s Grad Data

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This month, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) released new state- and school-level data on graduation rates for the 2010-2011 school year.  Before this year, states used a variety of methods to calculate high school graduation rates, so standardizing the formula for all states makes comparing states and individual schools easier and far more accurate. Using the new data system, now anyone can compare graduation rates–from Kemmerer High School in Lincoln County, Wyoming to Sheehan High School in Wallingford, Connecticut.

Making this type of information publicly available is a step towards fostering accountability for the public education system. Tracking accurate, comparable information will also serve to highlight best practices in improving graduation rates.Read More »

We Must Keep Our Promise to CT Children – Implement Reform with No Delays

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Last yRae Ann Knopfear, the process of passing landmark education reform in Connecticut was uniquely American: messy and confusing, but glorious in its ability to bring diverse peoples together to do the right thing for our children.

Rather than producing incompatible provisions in fits and starts each year, we passed a comprehensive framework of policies to reshape public education in Connecticut—the complex principles shaped around an underlying premise: that providing our children with the best education possible is both a moral imperative and the foundation for our economic revival.

Now, for a host of reasons, attempts are underway to undo some of those critical reforms before they even have a chance to take hold. That means this year is every bit as critical as the last, and the stakes are equally high.

Did you know that in Connecticut’s public schools, 5 out of 6 low-income students, 6 out of 7 black students, and 5 out of 6 Hispanic students in fourth grade do not read at grade level? Many are two or more years behind. Read More »

Rae Ann Knopf Discusses Early Literacy on NPR

You can hear Rae Ann on NPR, discussing the role that early literacy will play in closing the achievement gap, here!

CT’s Big Six to Education Committee: “Protect Promise of Statewide Educator Evaluation System”

A coalition of six of the state’s leading education and business groups – CAPSS, CAS, CABE, CBIA, CCER, ConnCAN – urge lawmakers to reject S.B. 1097 (“An Act Concerning Revisions to the Education Reform Act of 2012”)

Implementation of the new statewide teacher and principal evaluation program, the System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) created as part of last year’s landmark education reform law (Public Act 12-116), will be compromised by a new piece of legislation (S.B. 1097) recently introduced by the Education Committee.

This prompted the Big Six, a group composed of six education and business organizations, to assert that lawmakers need to protect progress made last year for Connecticut children by not supporting S.B. 1097.

“Connecticut must move forward with the statewide teacher and principal evaluation program in accordance with the phase in schedule that was agreed to by members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC),” said Joseph Cirasuolo, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS). “As a member of the PEAC, which helped develop the current model for the evaluation program, I think that the phase in schedule will allow districts to effectively implement the system. We can, therefore, make major progress towards the goal that we all share: ensuring that all children have access to the best teachers and principals.”

If passed and signed into law, S.B. 1097 would have the following impact:

  • Removes SEED implementation authority from boards of education: S.B. 1097 removes implementation authority from boards of education and gives it to a “professional development and evaluation committee.” Ultimately, school boards are held accountable for and are responsible for implementation of this program and corresponding results. In order to do this effectively, they must retain final decision making authority.
  • Unnecessarily delaying implementation of SEED: S.B. 1097 would delay the implementation timeline of the new system by one year, and require all school districts to fully implement the model in the 2014-15 school year. This overrides Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) and the State Board of Education’s (SBE) decision to phase-in the model gradually starting next year. More importantly, it removes the opportunity to phase in the system and to make adjustments based on that phase in.

“This is an unnecessary attempt to slow the progress that SEED will bring to our public education system,” said Robert Rader, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. “We owe it to our kids to ensure that teachers and principals get the feedback and support necessary to succeed, on the timeline that was reached by consensus at PEAC. We strongly urge members of the Education Committee to reject this bill and allow the PEAC and SBE models to progress as planned.”

All 26 members of the Education Committee voted in favor of last year’s landmark education reform law, which included the creation of the educator evaluator program. And public opinion is clearly in support of enhancing teacher quality this year. In fact, a recent Global Strategy Group poll of more than 600 Connecticut voters found that nearly three-fourths of voters (73 percent) believe that “evaluating teachers based on class performance” should be a priority for the governor and state legislators this year.

Our Education Policy Priorities for FY 2013

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The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) is a statewide non-profit 501(c)3 organization, formed in 2011, that represents business and civic leaders who support comprehensive education reform efforts to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students. CCER believes that every child in Connecticut deserves an exceptional education, without exception. Last year’s education reform act moved the state towards our goal of eliminating the achievement gap.

Governor Malloy has proposed three bills to the General Assembly that will implement his education recommendations (see below). Each of them touches on one or more of CCER’s priorities by extending existing programs (such as Alliance Districts), restructuring state government operations and oversight (Office of Early Childhood), or establishing pilots as proof points for professionalizing teaching and leading through innovative practices that mirror our own recommendations (Unleashing Innovation in CT schools).Read More »

Inside Scoop on Our Leadership Panel: Meriden Embraces Professional Learning Communities

Our March 28th Best Practices Forum is designed to highlight strategic innovations that close achievement gaps while raising overall student performance, and Dr. Mark Benigni, superintendent of Meriden Public Schools, has taken the lead on some interesting new initiatives! Superintendent Benigni has a strong relationship with the Meriden Federation of Teachers, and they work together to create a culture of collaboration. Below is a sneak peek at one of many such initiatives they have undertaken.

In Meriden Public Schools, we have made Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) an important part of the district framework and culture. On PLC Thursdays, we convene our educators so that they can collaborate to review student data and strategize about raising achievement. We ask our teachers to spend this time comparing students to themselves—rather than to each other—so that our teachers can focus on the needs of each student as an individual.

Today, many are recognizing the value of creating professional learning environments within which teams can work together to support each other’s efforts. The struggle, however, is finding time to put aside for this type of collaboration.Read More »